The Darkness and The Pretenders Reign Supreme at BST Hyde Park 2023

There was an epic undercard on a day that saw Guns N’ Roses headline BST Hyde Park. The Darkness were born to play in front of audiences like this, their hook-filled hard rock and Justin Hawkins showmanship ideal for huge stages and crowds that stretch as far as the eye can see, while One of the coolest people on the planet, Chrissie Hynde looks every inch the rock star as she fronts The Pretenders.

The Darkness – The Pretenders

BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

Words: Paul Monkhouse

The Darkness

The Darkness were in particularly fine form today, the set mixing old classics with new and the sense of occasion embraced with unbridled lust. Whilst the always sartorially elegant Frankie Poullain is as dapper as usual, today sees Dan Hawkins take a risk as his usual attire of black jeans and black Thin Lizzy t-shirt are replaced by blue denim and a white Lizzy shirt. 

The Darkness - BST Hyde Park - 30 June 2023
The Darkness – BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

Needless to say, powerhouse drummer Rufus ‘Tiger’ Taylor is shirtless, and Justin follows suit partway through the set, divesting the garment quicker than Def Leppard’s Phil Collen for a photoshoot. All this matters little, really, as the band could come on dressed as pandas, and the audience would love them no matter what.

This is part of their strength, though, their individual image setting them apart from a million bands out there. But for them and us, it’s always been the music that counts the most. 

The Darkness - BST Hyde Park - 30 June 2023
The Darkness – BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

When rock was in the doldrums, along came the quartet to inject a little high-octane fun back into the scene and, in doing so, managed to grab the hearts of not just old-school Metalheads but scores of new fans from across the genres. 

Join Hillbilly Vegas on Tour This July

The Darkness - BST Hyde Park - 30 June 2023
The Darkness – BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

The key was great songs performed with gusto and a genuine passion, and this is what The Darkness has always had by the lorryload. From the rousing opener Growing On Me, the pugilistic Get Your Hands Off My Woman through to the teeth-rattling riffing and locomotive pulse of Japanese Prisoner Of Love, here was a band that made you grin from ear to ear whilst rocking you with force.

The Darkness - BST Hyde Park - 30 June 2023
The Darkness – BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

A beautiful Love Is Only A Feeling showed their sensitive side, its structure sublime. Still, the band scored the biggest with a very funny bit of banter between the singer and Ethan, a member of the crowd who was forced to sing for the gift of a plectrum and a section on Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) that saw the band reluctantly play part of it before tearing into a triumphant I Believe In A Thing Called Love.

The Darkness - BST Hyde Park - 30 June 2023
The Darkness – BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

If ever you wanted proof that The Darkness are genuine national treasures, you only needed to be in the crowd to witness their ability to entertain and unite. Rock royalty, and long may they reign.

The Darkness - BST Hyde Park - 30 June 2023
The Darkness – BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

The Pretenders

Having led The Pretenders for forty-five years now, there’s no sense of Chrissie Hynde wanting to slow down or rest on her laurels. Opening their set with Losing My Sense Of Taste from their forthcoming Relentless album and Turf Accountant Daddy from 2020’s Hate for Sale shows supreme confidence in their new material. 

The Pretenders - BST Hyde Park - 30 June 2023
The Pretenders – BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

The band themselves are drum tight, and even with the absence of longtime drummer Martin Chambers, they shone as they attacked everything with vigour. 

A glorious Kid threw things right back to the start in a wave of heady nostalgia, and Talk Of The Town, Middle Of The Road both rocked, whilst a stripped-back Hymn To Her was an incandescent tribute to the late Meg Keene, who had penned the song and been a friend of Hynde’s since High School. 

Giving guitarist James Walbourne a chance to take centre stage, the primal ’50s rockabilly of Thumbelina saw him peel out an extended solo that dripped with fire and authenticity. 

The Pretenders - BST Hyde Park - 30 June 2023
The Pretenders – BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

The jaunty throb of Don’t Get Me Wrong had the crowd moving as they gyrated and twisted to its beat, and a skyscraping I’ll Stand By You was as much a promise to an audience who had stuck by the band as a supreme love song. 

Having road-tested some of the newer songs on an intimate club tour recently, the wide-open space of Hyde Park must have been a stark contrast but one that the band certainly took in their stride, having been used to shows of all sizes. 

The Pretenders - BST Hyde Park - 30 June 2023
The Pretenders – BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023

As with The Darkness before them, Hynde seems to have the ability to reach the very furthest person away, as well as those in the front row, with a genuine warmth that transcends even the music. 

It’s a wonderful thing to see and promises that Relentless is more than just a catchy title.

Sleeve Notes

Sign up for the MetalTalk Newsletter, an occasional roundup of the best Heavy Metal News, features and pictures curated by our global MetalTalk team.

More in Heavy Metal

Comments

  1. This is outrageous….
    Larkin Poe were on the bill … no mention
    I’d take the cool southern blusey ladies over these guys anyday and I’m a huge ROCK Fan

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Search MetalTalk

MetalTalk Venues

MetalTalk Venues - The Devil's Dog Digbeth
MetalTalk Venues – The Green Rooms Live Music and Rehearsal
The Patriot, Crumlin - The Home Of Rock
Interview: Christian Kimmett, the man responsible for getting the bands in at Bannerman's Bar
Cart & Horses, London. Birthplace Of Iron Maiden
The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton

New Metal News